The First Look

What is it and why you may want to add it to your wedding day



The “First Look” can be a beautiful addition to your wedding photography coverage making for beautiful timeless reactions with your fiancé you can cherish for a life time.


There are many variations of the “First Look” with the bride and groom including a “First Look” with the bride and her father during the getting ready photos.  "First Look" with the bride and her bridesmaids during the getting ready photos.  Another variation is a “First Look” with the groom and his mother.  A “First Touch” can be done in place of a “First Look”.  A “First Touch” is when the couple doesn't physically see each other but instead will touch each on each side of a door or wall,  partition etc. while exchanging words, vows or gifts with each other.  This usually takes place during the getting ready photos before the wedding ceremony.


Should I have a first look on your wedding day?


Sometimes couples are not sure if they want to do a first look or not.  There are often misunderstandings or misinformation around the “First Look” and the experience and how they translate to their wedding photos so I wanted to write this article to go over these things and lay out the pros and cons if any regarding the “First Look”


The “First Look” of the bride and groom is commonly done before the ceremony and after the getting ready photos of the groom and bride.  It can be done at the wedding venue, or other scenic location.  

There are so many benefits to doing a “First Look” before the ceremony.  I recommend couples incorporate this into their wedding timeline for many of the reasons listed below.


Benefits of the “First Look”


1) The couple can get the formal photos and portraits done before the ceremony thus freeing up the couple, bridal party and family to enjoy the cocktail hour with family and friends and guests

By doing the “First Look” followed by portraits of the bride and groom, bridal party and family. I can finish all the formal photos before the ceremony which frees up the couple to be at the cocktail hour  to enjoy the time with their guests and family rather than using that time for photos.

In addition, by getting all the "formal" photos done before the ceremony  I can be very "hands off" with the the couple, bridal party and family allowing them to enjoy the rest of the wedding day without needing and "formal" photos. 


7) Smooth and easy transition to portraits of the bride groom, bridal party and family portraits.

One of the best part of having a “First Look” before the ceremony is after the “First Look” it transitions so perfectly to portraits of the bride and groom, followed by portraits of the bridal party and family photos and you can have all the “formal” photos finished before the ceremony so the rest of the wedding is for enjoying and having fun.


2) The photographer can take more time for portraits making for more artistic expressions and captures with various backgrounds and locations for their photos. 

Taking all your portraits during the cocktail hour can be very rushed with only around 45 minutes of actual photo time before the bride and groom are taken away to line up for the reception.  This isn’t a lot of time for all the photos, groups and combinations you may want. 

The portrait time for most venues during the cocktail hour is about 45 minutes.  That time is set by the venue and you have no ability to change or modify that.  But you have the ability to change and  add in time before the ceremony depending on the venue of course.  You can set 1 hour for portraits or 1.5 or even 2 hours depending on the photos wanted making for a greater collection of photos for your prints, album and memory.


3) More time for photographer to take cocktail hour and reception detail photos

By having all the formal photos done before the ceremony the cocktail hour is opened up for the photographer to take photos of the reception room before guests enter as well as candid photos during the cocktail hour. 


4) More time for the bride and groom to take in each other’s reactions and enjoy the "First Look" moment together without the constraints and restrictions of a ceremony.

Some couples want to be more traditional and to see each other for the first time during the ceremony as the bride walks down the aisle.  There are many drawbacks to this however that I will outline below.

The time that the groom and bride see each other can be very short depending on the length of the aisle. It may be a matter of seconds. 

In contrast, when you do a "First Look" you are not under any of the ceremony restrictions of time, place, or moment.  The photographer can capture the moment and let it be uninterrupted and spontanious lending itself to more and better candids.  The couple is encouraged to "just be" and enjoy the moment and let what ever emotions come up, be as they are.  I give a lot of time to the couple when doing their first look, generally 30 minutes to an hour with portraits, so they can talk, share and communicate with each other, as well as touch each other, hug, caress and even adjust the grooms tie etc.  This interaction would not be possible during a ceremony. 

5) Less structured environment allowing for more candid reactions, expression and sharing

A ceremony is a very structured setting with rules and positioning that one has to follow as well as a lot going on in a short amount of time.  The ceremony is being controlled by a priest or officiant and you have to go with what is set according to the ceremony.  The time the bride and groom will have to interact with each other is very limited. You may have to stand in a particular spot, be a certain distance apart etc. Follow the direction of the officiant etc. 

In contrast when you do a "First Look" except for the initial set up of the groom and bride everything is a candid moment.  Once the bride and groom see each other they can hug each other, kiss, caress, check out each other, spin, dance, laugh, cry. It is a totally spontanious moment.  Everything is open, on the table and free without constraints.  This makes for such unique expressions and emotions that come out great in your photos.


5) More ability to tailor the experience regarding guests and attendees

When having a ceremony there can be hundreds of people in attendance.  This can intimidating and may not make one comfortable to express oneself and experience the moment.  When you do a “First Look” before the ceremony, you can decide on who attends.  It can be a very intimate moment with just the bride and groom, or the bridal party and family can be included to watch  or cheer and share in the moment from a distance.      


There is more time to take in the experience of the “First Look” both before seeing each other and more importantly when the bride and groom see each other they can take in the moment without being rushed or swept away anywhere.  They can just “be in the moment” and exchange emotions and words which makes for better candid photos.


6) More ability for the photographer to capture various angles, backgrounds and positions for better photos.

In a church or ceremony situation the positions the photographer can take can be limited.  Especially in the case of a church which has rules and regulations for where photographers can stand and position themselves. I have photographed church ceremonies where the priest didn't allow me to photograph from the center isle but only from the sides or back of the church.  I even photographed one wedding where the minister said I had to shoot the whole wedding from the choir loft and wasn't able to be on the church floor. 

In contrast, when a “First Look” is set up before the ceremony the photographer can have a large area to move around and photograph from to capture the candid moments of the "First Look" which will allow for so many more photos and angles.  The photographer can use a variety of lenses to capture the moment in a different way and take advantage of different backdrops etc. 


7) More ability for the photographer to capture backgrounds for better photos.

In a church or ceremony the position of the bride and groom is set.  The bride stands here, the groom stands here end of story.  There is not changing the backdrop, view etc.   In contrast, when a location, and take advantage of any background or setting that the venue has be it a waterfront view, mountain view, rustic back drop etc.  Once again this can make for more beautiful photos that showcase the venue, scenic locations in your photos.


8) More options in the wedding day timeline


Because we are working with the pre-ceremony part of the wedding.  There are many timeline sceneros  you can work with to suit your wedding day photography needs and timeline.  If time is short before the ceremony you do an abbreviated portrait session after the “First Look” with the couple and if time permits adding the  bridal party and later spend the first half of the cocktail hour doing formals with family etc. 


Variations on the “First Look”

We often hear about a “First Look” with the bride and groom.  But “First Look’s “ can happen with many different people on the wedding day as mentioned above including a “First Look” with the bride and her father, "First Look" with the bride and her bridesmaids, “First Look” with the groom and his mother. I have even done "First Look” photos with the bride and the groomsmen and even the bride and her siblings.  


Below are some photos to give you a some examples of "First Look" locations and interactions. .


First Look with the bride and her father








First look with the groom and his mom


First look with the bride and her bridesmaids




First look with the bride and groomsmen



“First Touch”


A variation of the “First Look” is the “First Touch”.  This is when the couple wants to have an intimate moment together before the ceremony without seeing each other reserving that for the ceremony.  The “First Touch” can be performed with the couple on either side of a partially open door such as in a hotel room etc.  Sometimes gifts can be exchanged, a letter read and of course a little time for some touching. 


I hope you found this article helpful to see if a “First Look’ is something you want to incorporate into your wedding photography.  As mentioned, there are so many advantages to doing a “First Look” on your wedding day. Part of my services is meeting with each couple and determining what elements you wanted to add to your wedding day and creating your wedding timeline with sufficient time to capture the various parts of your wedding day in a smooth and stress free enjoyable day.